San Francisco Chronicle By Chris Macias
Feb. 1, 2019 Updated: Feb. 5, 2019 10:52 a.m.
In the past year, this area about 50 miles east of Sacramento has become the home for new, ambitious vintners, nurtured the re-emergence of wildfire-affected wineries, and helped spur other developments that push the region’s reputation forward.
Here’s a taste of recent news from this inviting wine country:
Rising from the ashes
Helwig Winery suffered severe damage from an electrical fire in May 2017, leading to rebuilding efforts that lasted more than a year, until fall of 2018. But the winery didn’t just repair; it took the opportunity to expand its offerings, and debuted a larger commercial kitchen and a new private tasting room that overlooks the production facility. Next for this vintner of Zinfandel, Barbera and other local varietals: updates to its annual summer concert series, held in an amphitheater on the winery grounds in the warmer months. 11555 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth
Generations carry on at Sobon
The Sobon family has been a fixture of Amador’s wine industry for more than four decades, since the founding of Shenandoah Vineyards by Leon and Shirley Sobon in 1977. A new family project has emerged through their winemaker son, Paul, and granddaughter, Camille, who oversee Paul J. Wines. The winery’s lineup includes locally grown Barbera and Zinfandel, along with Vermentino and a late-harvest dessert wine made of black Muscat. While the bulk of the wines are produced at Shenandoah Vineyards, they can be sampled at a tasting room on Paul Sobon’s 5-acre home property. Paul J. Wines, 10775 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth
A (tasting) room with a view
The former Amador Foothill Winery was among the region’s definitive wine destinations, a purveyor of exceptionally balanced and flavorful Barbera, Sangiovese and other local favorites. Katie Quinn and Ben Zeitman, the former owners and winemakers, retired in 2014, but a new vintner has now established itself on the property. Iron Hub Winery and Vineyards, run by Lava Cap founding winemaker Tom Jones and family, opened a renovated tasting room in late 2017 that’s known for its spectacular views. Take a sip of Grenache or old vine Zinfandel at the bar while soaking in views of snow-capped Sierra Nevada peaks. Iron Hub Winery, 12500 Steiner Road, Plymouth
Amador City knows how
All the cool kids know that Amador City — population approximately 200 — is the new hot spot of the region’s wine country. The Gold Rush town hosts an outdoor concert series in the summer, offers a holistic center to keep your chakras balanced, and boasts a cluster of tasting rooms among its historic buildings from mining eras long past. One of the newest entries to Amador City also offers some of the region’s most adventurous wines. The End of Nowhere opened in August with a focus on “natural” wines crafted with native yeast fermentations, no fining or filtering, and a hands-off approach to these locally grown Rhone varietals. End of Nowhere, 14204 Main St. Suite 3, Amador City
Rancho Victoria Vineyard is known as one of the region’s go-to spots for weddings, though the property served mostly as a cattle ranch for over a century. A new tasting room that debuted over the summer now combines its history with livestock and living the good life. The Scale House tasting room is in a building that once served as a weighing room for cattle. The cows are gone, replaced by plenty of wine, including Syrah, Barbera and Chardonnay for tasting, sourced primarily from Amador County and the greater Sierra foothills. 16920 Greilich Road, Plymouth